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Ideas, Progress & the Future

UnCover Video: First Kiss – A Robotic Pas de deux

Two humanoid faces suspended on robotic arms, looping in a sequence of coming together and breaking apart – a mesmerising installation at the intersection of robotics and dance, First Kiss: A Robotic Pas de deux is on display at the Uncharted Territory festival from 7-16 July, 2023.

The piece explores notions of intimacy, trust and comfort, and ruminates on the evolution of human-robot relationships.

First Kiss is a collaboration between internationally-renowned choreographer and performer Melanie Lane, and the University of Canberra’s Associate Professor Damith Herath (Faculty of Science and Technology) and Assistant Professor Denise Thwaites (Faculty of Arts and Design).

It emerged through a pilot artistic residency program facilitated by Denise and Dr Vahri McKenzie (WAAPA, Edith Cowan University), and supported by the ACT Government’s Creative Recovery and Resilience Program in 2021-22.

“As robots evolve, a sense of aesthetics and grace around their movements is becoming an important part of the conversation – there’s a whole body of research growing around this,” says Damith.

It’s an interesting consideration for engineers, who tend to design for specific tasks and outcomes – and a crucial area of reflection in a world where increasing human-robot co-existence necessitates building trust.

Melanie worked with Research Assistant Yagnesh Naidu to bring the installation to life.

“I was really inspired by the idea of bringing choreography and technology together as a way to explore our relationship with technology,” Melanie says.

“I was also inspired by some other artists that have worked with robotics – William Forsythe’s Black Flags and Jordan Wolfson’s Female Figure and Coloured Sculpture come to mind. They use different types of choreography languages to explore ideas of humanity and technology, to evoke empathy, emotion or different performative responses.”

See more from the First Kiss collaborators, in the video below.

Words by Suzanne Lazaroo, video by John Masiello.

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